A risk factor is something that increases your chances of getting a disease or condition.
Although a person with specific risk factors is at increased risk, anyone can develop a lipid disorder. Having one or more of the risk factors listed below does not necessarily mean that you will get a lipid disorder. But if you do have any of these specific risk factors, you should talk with your doctor about what you can do to reduce your increased risk of developing a lipid disorder.
Risk factors for lipid disorders include the following:
Specific Lifestyle Factors
A diet high in saturated fat, transfat, and cholesterol—Eating food high in saturated fat, transfat, and cholesterol increases cholesterol levels. However, dietary cholesterol does not have as strong an effect on blood cholesterol levels as saturated and transfats.
Physical inactivity—Moderate to intense exercise done on a regular basis helps decrease LDL (bad) cholesterol, while increasing HDL (good) cholesterol, the type that helps prevent heart disease. Get clearance from your doctor before starting an exercise program because people with hyperlipidemia may already have hardening of the arteries or heart disease, which increases the risk of a heart attack or death while exercising.
Smoking—Smoking lowers the amount of HDL, the healthy type of cholesterol, in the blood.
Alcohol intake—While moderate amounts of alcohol can raise the healthy HDL cholesterol, alcohol can also raise unhealthy triglyceride levels. Ask your doctor whether or not moderate alcohol intake is advisable in your situation.
Overweight and obesity—Being overweight causes cholesterol levels to rise.
Hypothyroidism—An underactive thyroid can lead to increased triglyceride and cholesterol levels.
Diabetes mellitus—Diabetes is associated with elevated triglyceride levels.
Liver disease—Having liver disease can raise cholesterol levels.
Kidney disease—Some kidney illnesses, called “nephrotic syndrome,” are associated with elevated cholesterol and triglyceride levels
Certain medications—Many medications, including some antihypertensives, oral contraceptives, and steroids, can alter cholesterol levels. Ask your doctor if any of the medications you take could be causing your cholesterol levels to rise.
Advancing age—Cholesterol levels tend to increase with age due to a number of factors. In women, LDL levels often increase after menopause because of changing hormone levels.
Family history of lipid disorders—Certain types of high cholesterol are inherited.
American Heart Association website. Available at:
National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute website. Available at:
Textbook of Primary Care Medicine.3rd ed. Mosby, Inc; 2001.
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